Sunday, July 27, 2008

(under construction)

The road unravels in the low desert, far below sea level. A map of insects splattered on the windshield. The Sonoran Desert slides into the Imperial Valley, the Valle de la Muerte, the Valley of the Dead. Passing through Niland for the last time ever, driving off this mobius at Mexicali dislocating to Calexico, paying off the border guards with the guy’s casino winnings, crossing the flat dry bed of the Laguna Salida towards the Gulf of California. Thousands of sparks flying, valvesand pistons pumping, fan blades spinning air hysterically and you see the expanse of horizontality split open into a thin blue line of water between earth and sky and beyond.Silence. Then the words, “yeah, YEAH,” come through the radio. “Nobody knows, nobody sees, the light of life keeps burning and another soul goes free.”
Epilogue and acknowledgements

I wish to thank Richard C. Sarafian, director, and Dennis J. Parrish, art director and prop master, for kindly sharing their experiences and memories by telephone on June 30, 2008. They spoke candidly about the making of the film, and the incident when the last running Dodge Challenger was stolen by a woman who drove off with it into the desert. I learned of this event by way of Sarafian’s audio commentary on the 2003 UK DVD release where he states: “Finally we had only one car left, and what happened, there was a lady, or we’ll call her a hooker, that the crew thought they sort of saved from a local hook joint, and she was traveling with the crew, and the word came back that Misty took off with our only car. The state police tracked her down in a helicopter, we were late that morning to work, but we got the car back. And we often talk about Misty. I don’t know where she is now.” In the telephone conversation with Sarafian, he said that after Misty spent the evening with several men on the crew, possibly at the Mitzpah Hotel in Tonapah, she stole the keys from one of them, and was eventually tracked down by helicopter at the California Border. Parrish has a slightly different account of the event: he does not remember the woman’s name but is certain that Misty is incorrect. He did confirm that a woman by another name, who was well known to the crew, did in fact steal the last running Challenger, and was apprehended by the California Highway Patrol in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area two or three days later. Parish too said he didn’t know where Misty was now, or if she is still alive. He said, Sarafian “took it all in stride finding the event hilarious,” and that any other director would be furious and screaming, but he accepted it as part of the extended story. They both described the weeks during which thef ilm was shot as a series of magical surreal, moments in time, and remarked on the metaphysical and spiritual subtext of the film and how this quality significantly sets it apart from other road films of the era.

My project is a fictionalization of Misty/Desirée’s point of view of the car theft. Rather than interpreting her story as a crime, or a reversal of loss, or worse a disaster, I seek to create a fictional terrain: geographic, psychological and cognitive, in which the reader/viewer imagines the days of her disappearance. The intention is to provide “Misty” with an escape into an alternative history and an alternative future, had her luck or circumstances been different. I delight in the fact that Sarafian saw her actions as a “perfectly surreal event” in relation to the film. My project opens up a space for Misty’s release: she makes her get away, was not apprehended, the crew cheers her on, there are no surveillance helicopters, no California Highway Patrolmen, only her own psychological complexities to deal with. She makes it to the waters of the Gulf of California, that slip of sea between Baja and mainland Mexico to begin her new life. Ever onward, Misty/Desirée. Plus ultra, more beyond.

All photographs and text copyright Eve Andrée Laramée 2008, except the aerial photograph of Groom Lake, credit unknown.

Eve Andrée Laramée was born in Los Angeles, and divides her time between Brooklyn, New York, Baltimore, Maryland and Santa Fe, NM. She is Professor of Interdisciplinary Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her sculptures, installations and works on paper have been exhibited internationally. Her work explores the slippery zone between fact and fiction. She is interested in the ways in which cultures use art and science as devices or maps to construct belief systems. Her current projects include an installation and book about the transformation of the Mojave Desert during the Cold War, and a project on water in Northern New Mexico contaminated by radioactive isotopes from Los Alamos National Laboratory. She will be exhibiting works fromher Netherzone project at La Villa Arson in Nice France, October 31, 2008 - January 31, 2009.